Multiple Perspectives

I had the pleasure of chatting with Bill Liao today. We covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes, manuevering into alignment on the language of happiness and what thrivability is and looks like.

One of my takeaways from the conversation is the reminder of how critical multiple perspectives are. We discussed how some words have so many different meanings in them – like happiness, truth, justice, and beauty. For me these words are next to meaningless because they mean such different things to different people. Bill is a fan of etymology.

We discussed the etymology of science. Science derives from scire, which means to discern or to cut into smaller pieces. And while I value very highly the wisdom science brings, it also can reduce things to parts. Part of thrivability, to me, is about unity, interconnected systems, and whole-ness.Can we see the world as both whole and parts? It reminds of this lovely piece by Kevin Clark about intention in the Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch ebook.

Creative Commons License photo credit: [177]

A whole. And parts which are whole in themselves. Multiple perspectives. Being able to hold many perspectives at the same time can feel paradoxical. Like a good zen nugget. Can we see the world from the perspective of a child? A tree? An atom? A brain wave? A diplomat? A starving mother? An entrepreneur? A convict? A farmer? An anthropologist? When we can hold this, we begin to understand the flows of exchange and demand, of gift and grace.

I have a game I play to step into multiple perspectives. I blogged about it here before.

In my coaching practice, when someone is inside something so much that it reduces their resourcefulness, we play a little zooming game. It is often as if we are looking through a microscope at what is before us. And seeing it from across the room or through someone else’s eyes, or from a different timespan or place altogether allows us to detach enough emotionally to find our resourcefulness again. This is about gaining perspective. 🙂

Another coaching tool, especially useful for when we have tensions with another person, is to step into different perspectives of the situation. What does it look like if you are in their position? What does it look like to a witness? What does it look like to you when you are in a different state of mind? What does it look like in the future after you a successfully resolve it? What does it look like to your mentor?

It's cooler. Is the AC on orchid it be Fall?

Bill shared a lovely story about an artist asking a biologist about viewing a flower. The artist presumes that because the biologist knows the internal workings of the flower, that the biologist can’t see the forest for the trees – can’t see the flower for its parts. The biologist replies, but no… I can both see the beauty of the flower and the beauty of the internal workings of the flower.

Being able to hold multiple perspectives gives us a richness of experience, a resourcefulness in our choicemaking, and a greater peace of mind.

How do you incorporate multiple perspectives into your work and play?

What tools do you use to engage multiple perspectives? What practices do you have around it?

And thank you for sharing your thoughts. It helps me expand my ability to perceive the world through multiple perspectives. Thank you.

14 thoughts on “Multiple Perspectives

  • The term “science” came long before the scientific method was developed Despite the derivation of the name science, it is not about dividing things up into smaller pieces, but rather to understand nature deeply. To learn enough to ask deep questions of her and to be led to deeper questions. Some of the areas that can be attacked are fantastically complex.

    But I certainly agree on the need for multiple perspectives!

  • i’ve been finding that surrounding myself with people who approach life with multiple perspectives and multiple lenses and non-attachment to any one view are the people who raise my level of consciousness most.

    i used to be under the impression that for me to adopt multiple perspectives, it meant i had to surround myself with individuals who each had One perspective, and then i would be exposed to Multiple perspectives. now i see this is not the case. for instance, paying close attention to a firm Republican and a firm Democrat doesn’t make me feel elevated or more informed – it makes me feel like i’m surrounded by 2 pigheaded people trapped it dualist thinking who are more attached to an ideology than to expanding themselves. this is not what multiple perspectives means to me.

    now i see it in just the opposite way. i am able to gain a wealth of insights by surrounding myself with people who don’t have any particular perspective at all. they are inquisitive and voracious learners, humble, willing to be corrected and challenged to grow, they thrive in interdependence and understand that no one view could ever be complete, so why pretend.

    approaching life in the spirit of inquiry with a goal of understanding makes me feel like i can become more fully human.

    i think what you’re doing with coaching is a great lesson.. having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is great, and it builds compassion. i like anything that helps to promote “shifty” thinking – keeping the brain “on its toes” – its mental models always being updated or reshaped, staying inclusive of new information, and always expanding to a fuller understanding of our reality.

    as you saw my tweet earlier… i don’t think that being able to switch between many perspectives is just a fun exercise or business gimmick, but rather a clear sign of higher intelligence.

    let’s keep pushing for an understanding that a reductionist model of understanding is not complete, and perhaps a more holistic approach is worth considering….

    – @venessamiemis

  • Great comment @venessamiemis. There is indeed a very important difference in having a true opinion, made from multiple perspectives, and being judgmental, which is from a fixed one-sided perspective.

    People who are very judgmental tend to label people with an open mind, being able to see from multiple perspectives, as being ‘weak’ or not able to stand up for themselves. But it’s their narrow minded view in which they instantly judge anyone around them. And by judging someone else, you actually judge yourself, and in many cases, for the lack of the characteristic you are judging from that someone.

    Being able to not judge, have an open mind and be able to view from different perspectives are qualities which lean towards unconditional love.


  • A pleasure to read multiple viewpoints, an honor to be invited to respond, excited to imagine how what we do here Like serious play may help readers along their own imagination. Possibilities.

  • Embracing multiple perspectives to me means transcending and including, transcending and including, transcending and including in ever widening circles until we exclude no perspective and acknowledge them all — not because all perspectives are right or true (because NO perspectives are 100% right or true), but because all perspectives are worthy of acknowledgement.

    Even the most horrible and horrific perspectives? ESPECIALLY the most horrible and horrific because those are the perspectives that need acknowledgement and tolerance (dare I say unconditional love?) the most. “The sacred alchemy” of unconditional love is the only sure-fire means of bringing about the new earth that I know of (but, hey, I’m open). And from the place of unconditional love, there is no judgment of “horrible and horrific” or anything at all. From the place of unconditional love, there is only what IS. That’s what I call the final duality — there is what IS and what is not.

    It’s funny that I see this article today because yesterday I tweeted, “there is no transcendence by rejection.” Never. It can’t happen. Because rejection = resistance = the same level of consciousness that created the problem. And we all know what Einstein said. “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

    My life’s work (a simple teaching and a step-by-step practice) is all about ending suffering by embracing multiple perspectives (by literally transcending and including perspective altogether) until we’re operating beyond perspective and limited point of view and within a new form of intelligence, not to mention living in greater peace, equanimity, and oneness.

    Thanks to @kabaim for mentioning this article.


  • I’m aligned with the vision in the views here, yet see a limit to tolerance. In cases where people (or any sentient forms) seek to coercively replace a tolerant system with one that kills or shackles those it deems to be the Other, then protective acts of judging the transgressor and defending against aggression are valid responses.

    Yet such valid responses in a fallible system can themselves lead to transgressions against innocent parties, which in turn fuel valid acts of judgment and defense.

    To keep the moral rule from devolving into a cycle of simultaneously valid/invalid (in parts) retaliation, I agree with the position of Buddhist philosopher Yasuhiko Genku Kimura.

    As he puts it, “judge, but with compassion.” The latter aspect establishes a common ground of empathy with a vision of moral growth by individuals deemed in the present to be aggressors, and thereby plants seeds for transcending zero-sum relationships.


    Mark Frazier

  • Thank you for your comments. Steve – I hear you on what science is now. I just point to the etymology here. Venessa, thank you, I agree that holding multiple perspectives is the wise option, but hey, I am a possiblian. Thanks for the new word @artchetyper. I have used it several times in the last couple days. 🙂

    Thank you Kelly. I really appreciate the transcend and include encouragement. However, I worry that being able to view without judgment means we can’t discern which perspectives lead to better outcomes for more people over time. Certain perspectives are destructive. I can see from that place, but I don’t encourage that perspective. In spiral dynamics speak – my concern is for “green” inclusiveness making the greater whole sacrifice our collective evolution for the undermining perspectives of a few.

    Yes, thank you Mark. Judge but with compassion. It isn’t judging and disavowing. It isn’t judging and accepting while being patronizing. It is holding the tension between the one and the many, and operating for the greater good. A hearty appreciation for the transcending of zero-sum relationships.

    Much gratitude all.

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